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Academic Advising (GAP 3.3)

Document 3.3

Academic Advising

Current version

April 8, 2009

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  • Committee on Graduate Studies (policy)
  • Departments and degree programs (implementation)

Applicable to all graduate students and their programs.

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If you have questions or suggestions about this handbook, contact the office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

This handbook is a reference for Stanford faculty, staff and students. Where the current Stanford University Bulletin includes coverage of these topics, the current Bulletin is the governing policy. Stanford University reserves the right to make changes to its applicable policies, procedures and other materials contained here at any time and without prior notice.


Provides that all graduate students are to receive appropriate advising throughout their degree programs


Effective academic advising is a critical component of a successful graduate degree program. At Stanford, all matriculated graduate students are to be advised by a member of the faculty. The nature of academic advising may differ for different programs and at different stages in a degree program.


By the start of their first term, students should be paired by the department with faculty advisers who assist them in planning a program of study to meet degree requirements.

The department should also ensure that doctoral students are informed in a timely fashion about procedures for selecting a dissertation adviser, reading committee members, and orals committee members. Departments should make every effort to assist doctoral students who are not yet admitted to candidacy in finding an appropriate adviser. 

Students are obliged to follow department procedures for identifying advisers and committee members for their dissertation reading and university oral examinations (see GAP 4.7, Doctoral Degrees: University Orals Examinations and Committees, and GAP 4.8, Doctoral Degrees: Dissertations and Dissertation Reading Committees). 

1.1 Co-Advisers

At their discretion, students may identify co-advisers, normally both are members of the Academic Council. If a former Stanford Academic Council member, emeritus professor, or non-Academic Council member is serving as the principal dissertation adviser, the appointment of a co-adviser who is currently on the Academic Council is required (see GAP 4.8, Doctoral Degrees: Dissertations and Dissertation Reading Committees).

1.2 Change or Replacement of Adviser

Occasionally, a student’s research may diverge from the area of competence of the adviser, or irreconcilable differences may occur between the student and the faculty adviser. In such cases, the student or the faculty adviser may request a change in assignment. If the department decides to grant the request, every reasonable effort must be made to pair the student with another suitable adviser. This may entail some modification of the student’s research project.

In the rare case where a student’s dissertation research on an approved project is in an advanced stage and the dissertation adviser is no longer available, every reasonable effort must be made to appoint a new adviser, usually from the student’s reading committee. This may also require that a new member be added to the reading committee before the draft dissertation is evaluated, to keep the reconstituted committee in compliance with the University requirements for its composition. (Adviser changes are made with the Change of Dissertation Adviser or Reading Committee Member form).

In the event that a student’s adviser leaves Stanford University or becomes emeritus, that adviser may continue to work with the graduate student, including, upon approval of the appropriate petition, serving on the orals or dissertation reading committee. If this individual is to continue to serve as the principal dissertation adviser, however, the appointment of a co-adviser who is currently on the Academic Council is required (see GAP 4.8, Doctoral Degrees: Dissertations and Dissertation Reading Committees).

1.3 Advisers from Other than the Student’s Home Department

It is expected that faculty advisers will hold an appointment in the student’s major department or program. An adviser may be appointed from outside the major department subject to the approval of the major departmentDepartmental approval is conveyed by means of recording the name of the adviser in the PeopleSoft Student Administration record. 

1.4 Responsibilities of Advisers

1.4.1 General Responsibilities of Faculty Advisers

Faculty advisers are to:

  • serve as intellectual and professional mentors to their graduate students
  • provide knowledgeable support concerning the academic and non-academic policies that pertain to graduate students
  • help to prepare students to be competitive for employment
  • maintain a high level of professionalism in the relationship.

1.4.2 Dissertation Advisers

The dissertation adviser (also called thesis adviser or research adviser) establishes a critically important relationship with the doctoral student. The dissertation adviser provides guidance and direction to the doctoral student’s research, as well as evaluation of the student’s progress, often in the context of a research group. As a mentor and a role model, the dissertation adviser plays a critical role in the student’s development as an academic researcher. In many cases, the dissertation adviser is expected to provide financial support for the doctoral student, typically from research grants and contracts.

The dissertation adviser will normally serve as a member of the student’s oral examination committee, and as the chair of the student’s doctoral dissertation reading committee. 

Because of the critical importance of this role, and the potential significance of difficulties that may arise in this relationship, departments should designate a resource for faculty members and graduate students to call on for assistance in resolving difficulties. This role may be filled by the department chair, the graduate studies director, or a specially designated departmental resource.

2. Implementation Guidelines

2.1 Ongoing Advising

(See also Guidelines for Good Practices in the Graduate Student - Faculty Advisor Relationship.)

1. Assigns each incoming graduate student to an appropriate adviser by the start of his or her first term. Department
2. Familiarizes him or herself with and follows departmental procedures for identifying dissertation advisers, orals and reading committee members, including appropriate forms (see GAP, Chapter 4). Student
3. Monitors the ongoing health of the student-adviser relationship and provides support for conflict resolution as needed, including referrals to other university offices. Department
4. Records the name of each student’s adviser and committee members in PeopleSoft. Department
5. Carries out advising responsibilities. Adviser

2.2 Changing Advisers

1. Completes the Change of Dissertation Adviser or Reading Committee Member (pdf) form, and gathers necessary signatures
2. Reviews and approves (or denies) the requested changes Department
 3. Records the name of the new adviser in PeopleSoft Department



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